Canada rejoins NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Program

The Canadian Government announced its intention to rejoin the NATO Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) program, on Feb. 14.

Canada decided to withdraw from the AWACS program in 2011 following the Department of National Defence’s 2010 Strategic Review.

“NATO is a cornerstone of Canada’s international security policy, and is one of our most important multilateral relationships. In that spirit, Canada has decided to rejoin NATO’s Airborne Warning and Control System. AWACS is a key NATO capability that we will support by contributing to its operations and support budget. We have committed to keeping Canada engaged in the world, and continuing to commit ourselves to NATO and its missions are important steps toward that goal”, said Harjit S. Sajjan, the Canadian Defence Minister.

The Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) was established in 1978 and consists of a fleet of NATO-owned E-3A AWACS aircraft giving the Alliance abilities to conduct long-range aerial surveillance, and to command and control forces from the air.

The NATO Airborne Warning and Control System has sixteen E-3A aircraft. These modified Boeing 707s are easily identifiable from the distinctive radar dome mounted on the fuselage. The E-3A usually operates at an altitude of around 10 km. From this altitude a single E-3A can constantly monitor the airspace within a radius of more than 400 km and can exchange information – via digital data links – with ground-based, sea-based and airborne commanders.

By using pulse Doppler radar, an E-3A flying within NATO airspace can distinguish between targets and ground reflections and is therefore able to give early warning of low- or high-flying aircraft operating over the territory of a potential aggressor.

According to a statement from Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND), programs such as AWACS, and the joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) it provides, are increasingly relevant in today’s security environment. It added that in response to the challenges posed by that environment, NATO has significantly increased the use of its AWACS operations, including in areas like Central and Eastern Europe where Canada is leading a multinational NATO battlegroup based in Latvia.

Canadian Department of National Defence (DND)

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